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Automobile Insurance: Safety Tips

Auto Safety Tips

Click on the tabs below to see safety tips for each season.

Flooding - Are you Prepared?

Prolonged rainfall over several days can cause a river or stream to overflow and flood the surrounding area. A flash flood from a broken dam or levee or after intense rainfall of one inch (or more) per hour often catches people unprepared. The following is a list of what you can do to prepare for such emergencies:

Know what to expect:

  • Know your area's flood risk-if unsure, call your local Red Cross Chapter.
    If it has been raining hard for several hours, or steadily raining for several days, be alert to the possibility of a flood.
  • Listen to local radio or TV stations for flood information.
  • Floods can take several hours to days to develop. Flash floods can take only a few minutes to a few hours to develop.

Reduce Potential Flood Damage By:

  • Raising your furnace, water heater, and electric panel if they are in areas of your home that may be flooded.
  • Consult with a professional for further information if this and other damage reduction measures can be taken.

Prepare a Family Disaster Plan:

  • Check your homeowner's or renter's insurance to see if it covers flooding.
  • Keep insurance policies, documents, and other valuables in a safe-deposit box.

Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit containing:

  • First aid kit
  • Canned food and can opener
  • At least three gallons of water per person
  • Rubber boots and rubber gloves
  • Battery-powered radio, flashlight, and extra batteries
  • Special items for infants, elderly, or disabled family members
  • Written instructions for how to turn off electricity, gas and water if authorities advise you to. (Remember, you'll need a professional to turn them back on.)
  • Identify where you could go if told to evacuate. Choose several places...a friend's home in another town, a motel, or a shelter.

Some flood facts we think you should know from Project Safeside:

(sponsored by the American Red Cross and the Weather Channel)

  • Fact 1: 80% of flood deaths occur in vehicles.
  • Fact 2: Six inches of rapidly moving flood water can knock a person down.
  • Fact 3: Two feet of water can float a bus.
  • Fact 4: One third of flooded roads and bridges are so damaged that a car has only a 50% chance of making it across.

Portions of this article were provided by the American Red Cross.

Summer storms often bring dangerous lightning and heavy winds. If caught outside:

  • Find shelter in a building. If a building is not nearby, a hardtop car is fine.
  • Keep car windows closed.
  • If possible, go to a low lying open place away from trees, poles or metal objects.
  • Do not go to a place that could fill with flood waters.
  • If you are stuck in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees.
  • Get as low to the ground as possible.

Be Aware:

  • Wet leaves can be as slippery as ice. If it’s been raining, watch for patches of wet leaves in the road.
  • Watch for deer. In some rural areas, fall is hunting season. Many more deer will be crossing roadways.
  • Time to "fall back", not asleep. On the first Sunday in November, clocks are turned back one hour. That change affects your body’s internal clock. Crashes due to drowsy drivers are more frequent during the first weeks after the time change. You are likely to be fatigued until your body has adjusted to the time change. You may be commuting in the dark more frequently, which you haven’t done in six months.

The leading cause of death during winter storms is transportation accidents. Preparing your vehicle for the winter season and knowing how to react if stranded or lost on the road are the keys to safe winter driving.

Automobile Checks Before Snow Arrives:

  1. Install good winter tires. Make sure the tires have adequate tread and are properly inflated (including the spare). All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require that to drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
  2. Be Prepared. Keep a windshield scraper and small broom for ice and snow removal. Maintain at least a half tank of gas during the winter season (low fuel can create condensation and fuel line freeze-up).
  3. Plan long trips carefully. Listen to the radio or call the state highway patrol for the latest road conditions. Always travel during daylight and, if possible, take at least one other person. If you must go out during a winter storm, use public transportation.
  4. Dress warmly. Wear layers of loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing.
  5. Carry food and water. Store a supply of high energy "munchies" and several bottles of water.

Have a mechanic check the following items on your car:

  • Battery
  • Antifreeze (it should test 35 below zero in northern climates)
  • Wipers and windshield washer fluid (keep an extra bottle in your trunk)
  • Ignition system
  • Thermostat
  • Lights - high/low beams, turn signals, brakes, hazards. (Keep lights clean)
  • Flashing hazard lights
  • Exhaust system
  • Heaters
  • Hoses, belts, and brakes
  • Defroster
  • Oil level (if necessary, replace existing oil with a winter grade oil or the SAE 10w/30 weight variety)

Keep these items in your car:

  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • First aid kit with pocket knife
  • Necessary medications
  • Several blankets
  • Sleeping bags
  • Extra newspapers for insulation
  • Plastic bags (for sanitation)
  • Matches
  • Extra set of mittens, socks, and a wool cap
  • Rain gear and extra clothes
  • Small sack of sand for generating traction under wheels
  • Small shovel
  • Small tools (pliers, wrench, screwdriver)
  • Booster cables
  • Set of tire chains or traction mats
  • Cards, games, and puzzles
  • Brightly colored cloth to use as a flag
  • Canned fruit and nuts
  • Nonelectric can opener
  • Bottled water

Winter Driving Tips

  • Scrape and defrost windows before pulling onto the road. Clearing snow and ice from your entire vehicle allows you better visibility and eliminates flying snow that could cause additional obstacles for other motorists.
  • Slow down (allow 2 to 3 times the normal distance between you and the car in front of you).
  • Remember, bridges and overpasses freeze before other road surfaces.
  • Beware of "black ice".

If trapped in a car during a blizzard:

  • Stay in the car. Do not leave the car to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards. You may become disoriented and lost in blowing and drifting snow.
  • Display a trouble sign. Hang a brightly colored cloth on the radio antenna and raise the hood.
  • Occasionally run engine to keep warm. Turn on the car's engine for about 10 minutes each hour. Run the heater when the car is running. Also, turn on the car's dome light when the car is running.
  • Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and open a downwind window slightly for ventilation.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Do minor exercises to keep up circulation. Clap hands and move arms and legs occasionally. Try not to stay in one position for too long. If more than one person is in the car, take turns sleeping. For warmth, huddle together. Use newspapers, maps, and even the removable car mats for added insulation.
  • Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Unaccustomed exercise such as shoveling snow or pushing a car can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse. Be aware of symptoms of dehydration.

Be Aware:

  • During the day, ice and snow melt. Then as temperatures fall again, melted ice and snow re-freeze on the roadways.
  • Spring Ahead! - Into Daylight Saving Time. Advancing the clock forward affects your body's internal clock. You are likely to be fatigued until your body has adjusted to the time change. Crashes due to drowsiness are more numerous during the first weeks after the time change.
  • As warmer weather approaches, more people will be outdoors. Children will be playing in yards and parks and may be near the street. Watch carefully for them when you are driving. Bicyclists, in-line skaters and pedestrians will be using the sides of the road. Motorcycles will be back on the road.

For additional safe driving tips, visit the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee Web site:

Be prepared for possible tornadoes if you are in a car:

  • Never try to out drive a tornado in a car or truck. Tornadoes can change directions quickly and can lift a car or truck and toss it through the air.
  • Get out of the car immediately and take shelter in a nearby building.
  • If there is no time to get indoors, get out of the car and lie in a ditch or low-lying area away from the vehicle.
  • Always have the disaster supplies on hand such as flashlight and extra batteries; portable, battery operated radio with extra batteries, emergency food and water and a first aid kit.